Asset Recovery Commission announced on Thursday that their investigation reveals the actual losses to the State in the MMPRC graft scandal reaches over MVR 3.4 billion.
At a press conference on Thursday evening, Asset Recovery Commission’s President Ahmed Assad said that the islands and lagoons linked with the case were leased at well below their market value, and that the State would have earned at least MVR 3.4 billion if they had been leased at their market value.
He said that the islands and lagoons were leased by misusing a “privilege” which the Tourist Act allows, a model for private parties to form joint ventures with the State to develop islands and lagoons as tourist properties.
“And looking at prices fixed for the islands, that is, without considering the lagoon area because we found it difficult to calculate the value of the lagoons as we don’t have a method to calculate the value of lagoons. But we do have a method to calculate the value of islands. From what we found based on this method, we aren’t talking about not being able to recover USD 77 million, but about not being able to recover USD 220 million or MVR 3.4 billion,” he said.
“If we were to include the value of the lagoons, we expect it will be well above MVR 4 billion. We received only MVR 1.2 billion from the MVR 3.4 billion to MVR 4 billion we should have actually received. We received only a quarter.”
Assad said the graft had been run by misusing Maldives’ richest natural resource, its islands.
He said the crime had been committed due to the collective failure of all State institutions, and that there wasn’t a single sector to which the embezzled funds hadn’t gone to.
CHARGES AGAINST FIVE TO BE FILED WITH COURT “WITHIN WEEKS”
Assad said the number of suspected recipients of the embezzled funds now reaches 300, and that they are being shortlisted based on the amount of money they received, available evidence, and how high a position of authority they hold.
He said that charges against 5 people will be filed with the court within weeks, and that it will prove the investigation is fair and unbiased.
“We are hoping to take five cases to court over the next few weeks. Once these five cases are sent, you tell us whether there is any bias or not. It will show clearly how we did this without any bias,” said Assad.
He did not reveal the identities of the five suspects, and when questioned by Sun whether the suspects against whom the commission had collected sufficient evidence includes an incumbent Cabinet minister or parliamentarian, Assad said that “if there is sufficient evidence, they will be among the five ready to be sent to the court.”
He said the identities of the suspects will be released once the cases are sent to court.
It had been announced in October 2019, during a press conference held by Maldives Police Service, Anti-Corruption Commission and Asset Recovery Commission, that 16 incumbent parliamentarians and 42 from the previous parliamentary assembly were suspected of receiving embezzled funds.
However, the identities of the suspected parliamentarians and former parliamentarians have not been released.
The commission previously also stated that several Cabinet ministers and judges are also suspected of receiving embezzled funds.